Buffalo Wild Wings profits jump 22 percent, but stock takes hit

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2013 - 11:50 AM

The chicken chain’s quarterly earnings rose 22 percent but fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

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To cope with high wholesale wing prices, Buffalo Wild Wings has passed price increases to consumers.

 

Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. on Tuesday posted a 22 percent increase in quarterly profits over a year ago, buoyed by a solid increase in sales, but missed Wall Street estimates as high chicken wing costs continued to eat at the bottom line.

Golden Valley-based Buffalo Wild Wings, known for its wings, beer and sports motif, recorded fourth-quarter earnings of $16.7 million, or 89 cents per share, up from $13.6 million or 74 cents from the same period in 2011.

Stock analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting earnings of 96 cents per share.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ fourth-quarter revenue hit $303.8 million, up 38 percent from a year earlier and above analysts’ estimates of $292.4 million. The boost came from strong sales growth at existing restaurants, as well the addition of 62 new company outlets and incremental revenue from a “14th week” for financial reporting purposes.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ annual revenue exceeded $1 billion for the first time last year. “We are very pleased with our results, and we continue to break sales records,” CEO Sally Smith told analysts in a conference call.

During 2012, Buffalo Wild Wings had to cope with record high wholesale wing prices — after record lows just a year earlier.

During the fourth quarter, wings cost $2.07 per pound on average, up from $1.42 a year ago. Buffalo Wild Wings has been getting fewer wings per pound as producers breed bigger birds.

“We’re not worried at all about [the company’s] top line, it’s just wing prices — they’re killing them,” said Mark Smith, a stock analyst at Feltl & Co. who has a “sell” rating on Wild Wings’ stock.

The majority of analysts have a “buy” or “outperform” rating on the stock.

Wild Wings earnings were announced after the stock market closed Tuesday. In mid-morning trading Wednesday, the stock was at $77.61 down $3.46, or 4.3 percent.

To cope with high wholesale wing prices, Wild Wings has passed price increases to consumers — more than 4 percent. Smith told analysts the company has seen no backlash.

Wild Wings posted strong fourth-quarter growth in same-store sales, a key gauge that takes into account newly opened and closed outlets. But so far in 2013, same-store sales are “challenging to interpret,” Wild Wings executives say.

Through 2013’s first six weeks, same-store sales at company-owned restaurants and franchised locations were down 2.8 percent and 1.7 percent respectively. But 2012 effectively had a 53rd week for financial reporting (hence the fourth quarter’s 14th week), misaligning year-over-year dates for college football bowls and the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Adjusting for that, Wild Wings’ same-store sales during 2013’s first six weeks rose 2.6 percent and 1.6 percent respectively at company-owned stores and franchised locations, still well below the fourth quarter’s growth rate.

 

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003


 

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